On May 14, 2017, I competed in my very first 70.3 distance race, the Ironman Monterrey 70.3 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. It has been 9 days since I competed in Ironman Monterrey 70.3 and I needed the time and distance to properly appreciate and evaluate the race, my performance and overall experience there. I needed time for that goofy smile to fade a bit. I liken the experience to recalling the birth of your child. All you remember is the amazing experience and somehow the memory of the struggle to get there is magically stripped away. If there is any doubt about my race after-glow…I’ve retired my designer handbag and now only carry my Ironman backpack, where my medal is tucked inside, a mere heartbeat away. Oh yeah, I’ve got it bad. I have to say, this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Ironman Monterrey 70.3 is in Mexico. So on top of registration, there were passports, and long flights to purchase. However, my husband is from Monterrey, so this venue was chosen so the entire family could attend and be with my husband’s side of the family. My three children and husband came for a “racecation” and my mother and aunt came later to cheer me on. We purchased tickets to fly out from Chicago, since it was cheaper and purchased train tickets from St. Louis to Chicago so that we could relax and arrive at our 1:55 AM flight fresh and relaxed. I borrowed a bike box from my Tri Club and packed up my bike. We had to request a large Uber to fit the bike box plus our luggage and 5 people. We were able to fit everyone and everything and headed to the train station. Once we were there, we were informed that we could not take the bike box on the train under any circumstances. We could however, take the assembled bike on the train…which makes no sense. My quick-thinking husband got a refund for the tickets and we promptly rented a car, drove to Chicago and arrived over an hour earlier than the train. The airline, AeroMexio, charged $65 each way to transport my bike. I thought the price wasn’t bad, however I soon found that they charged $25, each way for each checked bag as well. Oh, and the credit card system is down, so “can you make it cash please?”.
We made it to Mexico. I took Wednesday to recover from the travel. The weather had been on the cooler side, mid- 80’s, and I was very hopeful for raceday. Friday, I did the race check-in at Cintermex. The expo was just getting started, due to my excitement, I I arrived just as it opened. The swag was nice: a small backpack (my new purse), flip-flops and a nice hat. Federación Mexicana de Triatlón members got a nice T-shirt as well. My Spanish is average, so it was helpful that at each location there was at least one person who spoke English. I asked about getting a religious exception for the swim so that I can remain covered. I was told to speak to the officials at the practice swim scheduled for the next morning.
The swim took place in the beautiful Santa Lucia, a man-made canal that is approximately 1.5 miles long and only about 4 feet deep. The Santa Lucia is used to transport tourist by small boats through the scenic Fundidora park and swimming is not normally allowed. I had the hugest, dumbest grin on my face when I saw it in the morning light. What a sight!
I spoke with an official in broken Spanish, then we switched to English. He notified all the other officials of my race number and just like that, I had my religious exception. So, I went for a swim. The water was virtually clear. Visibility was quite high and when I took my first breath, I had a glimpse of the surrounding mountains and I was so happy to be where I was at that very moment.
For many reasons, my husband is the best husband in the entire world. But on bike-check-in day he was amazing, because I know he wanted to kill me. I got the the facts mixed up and had to transport (walk) my bike 1.5 miles with him to transition…with the kids…in the heat. The kids complained mostly but I was just happy to be there.
When we finally arrived, I explained how I would not be showing my legs nor arms so they decided they would not body-mark my hand or ankle. I held my number up and they took a picture of me resembling a smiling prisoner. In transition, I was met by a very nice older gentleman who asked me where I was from. I excitedly responded “St. Louis, Missouri”. In retrospect, I probably could have said, the United States of America, but hey, I was just happy to be there. He explained the Swim In and Bike Out in Spanish. I understood. He wished me luck and I thanked him for his help.
4:00AM race morning, I forced down sweet bread, my green drink (powered greens, caffeine and probiotics), and an electrolyte solution (EMS) with Carbo Pro. I took a two-phase Pre-Workout by Old School Labs with me in throw-away water bottle to drink 30 minutes before the start. My husband borrowed a car and took me to the race. I set up transition, took it all in and headed back to the car to ride to the Start. My husband was concerned about dropping me off in a dark park at 5AM. There was security at the entrance but it was desolate and thick with trees and no lights inside. He told me to run until I found other triathletes. I ran.
The swim was a rolling start and we were to report the corral of our predicted swim time. I placed myself in the 40:00 to 48:00 slot and was pleased with my choice. I looked around as if there was some way to gauge swimming ability on land. Everyone looked so strong but that didn’t matter because I was saying, “it’s all about me now”. When my group came to the water’s edge, I sat on the side and plopped into the water. I walked to the start and remarkably remember to start my Garmin. I was happy and excited and not stressed or nervous. I knew I could touch the bottom and although walking is prohibited, standing is allowed. Just knowing this, I relaxed. About 300 yards in, I got hit pretty hard in the back of the head. I stopped and stood. The swimmer looked confused and then sees me and apologies profusely. I tell him no worries and we are back to swimming. I took it easy and drafted but many people stopped due to congestion in the narrowest parts of the Santa Lucia. I had to breast stroke as the congestion cleared. There was a lot of stopping, unexpected mouthfuls of water and duck feathers but I made it to the end of the swim, zooming around people as they tried to stand or slow. I exited the water at 56:07, 11 minutes more than I had hoped. I was still pleased.
My bike was at the far end of Swim Out but close to the Bike Out/In. I made it to my spot, got my hijab on and slid my cap off underneath. I grabbed my shoes, my skirt and shoved the race fuel into my pockets, put my shoes on and looked around. I looked around for a long time! Basically, I wasted time. I took a bite of sweet bread and drank electrolytes then ran out with my bike. 6:20. What the hell was I doing?
Once on my bike, I was happy and confident. I was again, just happy to be there and the sights of downtown Monterrey were awesome. I had seen them many times over 18 years but somehow everything is more amazing on the bike. I smiled a lot, but ultimately stopped because I always end up with a bug in my mouth. The first loop I was able to average almost 17 mph and I was very proud of the fact that I hit my goal. I didn’t slow for any hydration and drank when I saw an aid station. The end of the loop and the beginning is about 200 meters of cobblestone. It was quite unnerving for me. I saw my family, I heard my family, I smiled and felt amazing. My brand-new, large bottle vibrated right out of my top cage. It was almost empty.
At the end of the first loop I felt so great and knew that I could repeat my performance a second time. I was incorrect. I started out strong but soon I was feeling just completely beat down. I tried nutrition and got somewhat of a boost but I needed water. I yelled “agua” at the next stop and got ice water in an Ironman Mexico bottle (YES!!), that helped me to the next stop. I used the next bottle to pour on my arms which were burning under my SPF50 trisuit and sleeves. At the turnaround, I hear, “Vamanos St. Louis Missooouriii!!” It was the guy from transition the day before! That gave me a boost, a smile and a reason to push. I passed many on the hills and and kept pushing. The heat index was rising towards 99 degrees. I had the time to calculate that I had encountered 10 hills and I was quite sure that someone needed to redo their elevation diagram which showed 4. One more cobblestone ride, one less bottle, once again. 3:44:20, 44 minutes over my goal.
I was beat down from the bike and relieved to be off of it. I did the most graceful dismount and I impressed myself. 5:33
My legs barely worked. The Run Out was down several steps and I took it very slowly. I tried to run but my legs didn’t let me. I was walking an 18:00 minute mile and I was disappointed. I was so hot and the first aid station was not far from the start. I grabbed water and Pepsi. I ate my fuel but I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to eat anything. I just wanted to be cool and hydrated. I grabbed bags of water at every stop and put them in my kit, down my back and tried to get cool. There was no shade at all on the run. I tried a walk/run and I tried to jog and both were slow and not successful. I ran with a large pack of runners who were likely completing their last loop. In a group of spectators, a lady saw me and said, “You are amazing! I am in such awe of you!”. She gave me a high-five. Energy! I was nearing the end of the first loop and I saw my husband. He said, “I’m so proud of you! I love you.” I was so touched. I almost started to cry. Then he yelled, “Don’t stop!” as I ran off. I ran and I kept running. I managed a 13:00 minute mile and I felt awful the entire time but I could just picture my husband there, waiting and I wanted to run to him.
I thought I was the last one on the course. I never looked back, I just kept pushing forward. I looked down at my watch and realized I was flirting with the cuttoff if I didn’t speed up. I got a bit of fire. I tried to speed up and I kept going. I thought how I’d never forgive myself if I missed the cuttoff by a minute or two. I came to the same spot where the crowd of runners and spectators were on the first loop and there was no one. Then I saw my mom and aunt running towards me. They were cheering me on. I had about 100 meters to finish. I saw that blue carpet and the pain and heat was gone. Everything was gone. I saw the time, of course I looked at the clock, and I didn’t care about the number. I was finished and I was elated.
I crossed that finish and I was happy and somehow full of energy. The lady who told me I was “amazing” was there and she hugged me and said, “Remember me? I said you were amazing and I meant it. I’m in awe.” I saw my husband and my kids. They looked so proud. The lady with the medals asked me in Spanish, if I wanted her to put the medal on. I tried to answer but realized all I could do was nod and I started crying uncontrollably. The kind of crying I swore I’d never do in public. My husband hugged my wet, sweaty body and told me he was so proud of me. I breathed, “Thank You”.
I did not make my goal of 6:30:00, but at times, it seemed completely feasible. I had a fun time and I felt amazing about the fact that I finished. I stuck around and was able to cheer on people that finished behind me. The people I didn’t even know were there. I cheered them hard.
This race has reaffirmed that there are no limits except for the ones that we place on ourselves. I continue to refuse to limit myself and I am so excited to see what I’ll do next.
- The bike was a pain to transport. Normal taxis and cars in Mexico couldn’t fit the box. My bike is large and with the wheels off I still need an uberXL. I will ship my bike to the race next time.
- Train in race conditions. Mexico is HOT! St. Louis was very cool. Next time, I will train a few days in a warmer climate prior to the race.
- Monterrey is at a much higher altitude than St. Louis and I had 3 1/2 days to adjust but it likely had an effect. I need to improve my VO2Max by increasing my aerobic fitness.
- I had a lot more fuel in the tank after the swim. I’d like to work on swimming a bit more aggressively.
- I will wear more sunscreen.
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